Colombian playwright Pedro Miguel Rozo attended an international residency at the Royal Court, and Our Private Life (translated by Simon Scardifield) is the result. It’s a fairly edgy, unsettling play about child abuse in a Colombian family poised on a socially evolutionary cusp between farming and fashion, small village and larger town.
The characters say what they think, sometimes up front, sometimes in a cartoon bubble aside to the audience. There’s Ishia Bennison’s flagrantly coarse Mother, holding the ring in a now sexless marriage with Anthony O’Donnell’s ex-farmer who may or may not have “fiddled” with the young son of his former employee, Tania (a foul-mouthed, vengeful Clare Cathcart).
The couple’s two sons are severely contrasted: the elder, Sergio (Eugene O’Hare), is married, about to become a father – with the church’s blessing – and has embraced the new culture; he’s manager in the new shopping mall. He’s also not the son of his Father, but taken on with his Mother, which leads to another set of problems.
Younger Carlos, as played by the extraordinary Colin Morgan (the original lead in Vernon God Little) is a mass of tics and traumas, psychologically confused, certainly homosexual, verging on the autistic, deeply unhappy. He works in a local barbecue and is selling his backside for a few extra pesos.
Carlos has interrupted a coarse of lithium prescribed by the Psychiatrist (Adrian Schiller), which may have affected his response to rumours that Father has raped Tania’s son. So it goes, with Mother becoming ever more hysterical and the faithless Psychiatrist – the small town equivalent of the whisky priest – batting away everyone’s fears and anxieties with dreams of a posh new car as he pockets another bundle of notes.
It’s all very well done in Lyndsey Turner’s production, with a clever design by Lizzie Clachan that has sliding South American green panels and a brightly lit (by Peter Mumford) kitchen interior where things come to a head during a desperate Christmas Day climax.
The acting, too, is strange and bumpy, Bennison’s full-blooded vitality bouncing off O’Donnell’s placid, stolid exterior – which makes the final scene with the young boy Joaquin (Joshua Williams) all the more unexpected, and Schiller picking his way through the troubled arguments with a sinister, unhelpful neutrality.